In the June 7 Optic, Jesus Lopez wrote about Nuestra Historia, Part 1, and included a photo of a house built by a former slave named Montgomery Bell, who left Missouri and came to Las Vegas in 1867.
Mr. Bell built a 10-room mansion that was located where Hot Springs Boulevard intersects with Bernalillo Street. Thanks to Mr. Lopez’s historical contributions, I immediately recognized the house where my grandparents lived. I have no doubt that many people in Las Vegas remember this house.
My grandparents, Hilario and Silvianita Delgado moved into this house in 1929-30, from Cañon Del Agua. I do not know if they purchased it from Mr. Bell or if someone else owned it before them. According to my cousin Anna Romero Johnson, who is an excellent family historian, my grandfather knew Mr. Bell. Anna’s mother Josefita (Tita) was 10 years old when they moved into this house.
My grandfather, who was born in 1876, was 54 years of age in 1930, and my grandmother was 50. They had six children: Carolina, Juan Maria, Cleofas, Margarita, Cirilio and Josefita. The older children may have been married at that time.
My brother Gilbert recalls living upstairs with my parents Juan Maria and Margarita Delgado and remembers starting school at North Public School when he was 6. He also recalls that other relatives lived in the adjoining rooms.
I did not appear on the scene until the 1940s. At that time my parents had a home in Chaperito, but we would spend a lot of time at my grandparents’ home. I had the opportunity to grow up with my cousins in that large house and have many pleasant memories. The house was huge with double doors in the front entrance that led into the hallway (zaguan). There was a wide stairway to the upstairs.
I cannot recall if the house had electricity and running water, although I suspect it had no running water because there was an outhouse in the back yard.
Every room was large with high ceilings and a fireplace in the front room. The kitchen had a long table with benches (tarimas) and chairs that could seat many people at one time. In spite of this, the adults ate first and we had to wait until they left the table.
I especially remember the kitchen ceiling because it was papered with magazine pages and old newspapers. The cousins and I found it very interesting as we pointed out our favorite ones. Sadly, I also remember my 10-year-old cousin Rosa, who was raised by my grandma and who died in that house. We were devastated by her death, and I can still remember her coffin being placed in the living room where people came to pay their respects. This practice was common at that time.
The yard was also large with many places to play “Hide & Seek.” The front yard had many lilac bushes that provided a pleasant fragrance. The arroyo that crosses Hot Springs Boulevard and runs down Bernalillo Street was a scary place that we avoided due to the fear that La Llorona would come after us, no doubt a tactic used by the adults to keep us from playing there. Next to this property and Hot Springs was a house belonging to Wester Produce. There were also two small grocery stores on Hot Springs, one owned by Jose Delgado and the other by a Martinez family.
When my grandfather Hilario died in 1943, he was 67. My grandmother Silvianita continued to live there with her daughter Margarita Ulibarri and her two children, plus a grandson they had raised, Hilario Garduño and family. My cousin Caroline Garduño Roane also provided me with information.
My grandma fell and suffered a hip fracture that rendered her bedridden. She died in 1958 at the age of 78. The house was then vacant, and I believe it burned down. The rest is history, a sad history, because I can’t help but wonder if this house would have made it into the historical register, had it survived.
I also wonder whatever happened to Montgomery Bell? Perhaps we will learn more about him from Mr. Lopez’s future contributions.
When Mr. Bell came to Las Vegas in 1867, my grandfather was only 9 years old, yet these two men’s lives touched each other and in turn the rest of us. This photo means a lot to those of us who had the opportunity to experience life in the “Montgomery Bell 10-room mansion.”
Kim Delgado is a Las Vegas native. She may be reached at email@example.com or 425-9677.